Thursday, December 22, 2011

Matthew 1:18-25

1:18-25Now Jesus Christ’s origin was of this sort. After his mother, Mary, had been betrothed to Joseph, before they lived together, it was found that she had a pregnant belly (from the Holy Spirit). Now Joseph, her husband, because he was a righteous man and because he did not wish to disgrace her publicly, wanted to divorce here quietly. But after he had reflected on these things, Look!, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take into your home Mary, your wife, for the child that has been begotten in her is from the Holy Spirit. And she will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And this whole thing has happened in order that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying: “Look! The virgin will have a pregnant belly, and she will give birth to a son, and they will call his name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” And Joseph got up from sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and he took his wife into his home, but he continued not knowing her sexually during the time before she gave birth to her firstborn son, and he called his name Jesus.

In verse 18 the Greek literally says, "before they came together." Some have interpreted this as referring to sexual relations but given the customs surrounding betrothal and the use of the phrase in other parts of the Scriptures, it seems more likely that it means "before they lived together" as the ISV and NAB translate it.

The KJV/ESV/NIV/NASB and others say that Mary "was found to be with child." The NLT says "she became pregnant." The Greek literally says "she was found having in the belly." "Having in the belly" is a euphemism for being pregnant. In context, the ideas seems to be that those aroud her noticed that she was pregnant because her belly was growing. It sounds a little clunky but I've decided to translate it as "she was found to have a pregnant belly."

I put "from the Holy Spirit" in parenthesis because in context Joseph and others were not aware that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. At this point, Mary does not seem to have revealed to others what the angel revealed to her. Matthew is telling us that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph would find out later.

In verse 25, most translations say that Joseph did not know Mary "until she gave birth." In English, the word "until" carries connotations with it that the Greek does not. "Until" implies that after the birth Joseph did have sexual relations with Mary. But the Greek doesn't imply that. Matthew is making it very clear that Mary and Joseph did not have sexual relations before or during the pregnancy because he wants to make it very clear that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. However, he is silent on the issue of whether or not Mary and Joseph had sexual relations after the pregnancy. I'm not completely happy with "he continued not knowing her sexually during the time before she gave birth" but it's the best I could come up with for the time being.

I look forward to suggestions for improvement.

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